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Dice on DL

06.21.09 at 12:58 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona was about as clear as he could be on Sunday about the near future for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list prior to Sunday’s game with the Braves.

“It was very obvious that we would have to D.L. him,” Francona said. “This is not going to be a two-week D.L. We have to figure this out. We have a lot of work ahead of us to get him back to being Daisuke.”

Matsuzaka was placed on the D.L. Sunday, with the club calling up catcher Dusty Brown to take his place, for the time being. John Smoltz is expected to take Brown’s spot when Smoltz starts Thursday against Washington. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Francona, Red Sox,

Matsuzaka update: ‘Some weakness,’ but no structural damage

06.20.09 at 10:31 pm ET
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Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka was examined on Saturday, and underwent an MRI to evaluate his right shoulder. Boston manager Terry Francona said that while there was no structural damage to the shoulder, the same weakness that has affected the pitcher throughout the season persists. Still, while Francona’s description of Matsuzaka’s condition made it seem likely that a trip to the disabled list will be necessary, the manager said that the team did not have an official move to announce.

“We don’t have anything official to announce because we really need to let this thing settled down,” said Francona. “I will say, I don’t think it’s any surprised, there’s some weakness that we’re going ot ahve to fix. By that, it’s going to have to be addressed, but there is no official announcement tonight.”

Francona met with Matsuzaka, G.M. Theo Epstein, pitching coach John Farrell, team physician Dr. Thomas Gill and trainers over the course of the day. He suggested that the team was unlikely to announce the next move with the pitcher until after Monday’s off-day. That delay reflects in part the fact that it is difficult, according to Francona, to get a good read on a pitcher’s health the day after a start. (Matsuzaka allowed six runs in four innings on Friday.)

That said, the manager painted the portrait of an issue that has been ongoing, and that continues to limit the pitcher’s effectiveness.

“We’ve been fighting this (shoulder weakness) all year. It’s been hard, and I know that I keep coming back to the (World Baseball Classic), and that’s probably not a real popular thing in baseball to say that, but (Matsuzaka) didn’t have a chance to get a foundation (for his arm strength),” said Francona. “You’re ramped up to try to get people out probably before he was ready. Physically it’s happened to pitchers where they’re pitching in earnest before their bodies or arms are ready to do that, and I think we paid the price for that.

“We’ve been playing catch-up,” Francona continued. “We did what we thought was right to shut him down earlier (this year, when he went on the disabled list in April). I think we all see that it’s not really getting strong or better. It’s been a struggle so we’re trying to address that.”

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka,

Beckett closes the deal

06.20.09 at 9:24 pm ET
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Jonathan Papelbon was warming in the ninth, but Josh Beckett seemed to have no intention of turning the game over to anyone. He retired the Braves in the ninth on just five pitches to finish a complete-game shutout and 3-0 win in just 94 pitches. It was Beckett’s first shutout as a member of the Red Sox, and the third or his career. It was also Beckett’s first complete-game of the 2009 season.

Beckett keeps posting zeros

06.20.09 at 9:16 pm ET
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Though Josh Beckett’s stuff was not quite as dominating in the eighth inning — following a lengthy bottom of the seventh — as it had been earlier in the game, the Braves remained unable to do anything against him. After retiring 11 straight from the fourth through seventh innings, Beckett gave up a pair of hits in the eighth, and faced a first-and-second situation with one out.

But after falling behind Jeff Francouer, 2-0 and then 3-1, Beckett got Francouer to hit a hard one-hopper back to the mound. Beckett reacted quickly to glove it, then fired to second to start a 1-6-3 double play to keep his shutout intact. With just 89 pitches through eight innings, Beckett will remain on the hill for the ninth.

Lowe Rider Makes His Exit

06.20.09 at 8:57 pm ET
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After Derek Lowe gave up back-to-back hits to Jason Varitek (double off the Wall) and Nick Green (hard single to center) to put runners on the corners with one out in the seventh, Braves manager Bobby Cox removed his starter from the game. Lowe left trailing, 2-0, and so he will not earn a victory tonight in his first career appearance as a visitor in Boston.

But he may have received something far more meaningful: as he walked off the mound, Lowe received a sustained ovation from the crowd at Fenway Park, an act that had less to do with his fine performance tonight than with his eight years of service as a Red Sox. Though he last wore the home whites in Boston five years ago, his time here was clearly not forgotten.

Following Lowe’s exit, Dustin Pedroia hit into a run-scoring fielder’s choice to close the book on Lowe’s night with the following line:

6.1 innings, 3 runs, 7 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts,

Read More: Derek Lowe,

Josh Beckett: ruthlessly good

06.20.09 at 8:52 pm ET
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It would appear safe to suggest that Josh Beckett’s poor outing last Sunday against the Phillies (six innings, seven runs, six earned, 11 hits) was an aberration.

Beckett has needed just 79 pitches to throw seven shutout innings in which he’s given up three hits and struck out seven.He’s featuring easy mid-90s velocity on his four-seam fastball, which he has complemented with a devastating curveball and very good changeup.

Thanks to a double play and a runner who was thrown out trying to advance from first to second on a ball that didn’t quite get far enough away from catcher Jason Varitek, he has faced just 22 batters, one over the minimum. Becket has walked none, going to just two three-ball counts. (Surprisingly, he has thrown first-pitch strikes to just 12 of 22 batters.)

Red Sox add on

06.20.09 at 8:41 pm ET
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Though Derek Lowe stifled the Red Sox into the fifth, he seems to be running out of gas against his former team. After giving up a run in the fifth on a pair of doubles, the Sox plated another when J.D. Drew doubled off the Wall in left-center to lead off the sixth and Kevin Youkilis followed by ripping a run-scoring single to right-center. (After the inning, Lowe seemed to make a point of walking past Youkilis.)

Lowe appeared to be losing the sink on his pitches, as he gave up four fly balls or liners in the sixth inning after having given up three in the fifth. He is at 100 pitches through six innings. Though the Braves had a reliever (Jeff Bennett) warming during the sixth, the bullpen is currently silent.

Lowe and the Braves trail, 2-0. Josh Beckett is locked in.

Red Sox offense breaks its silence

06.20.09 at 8:27 pm ET
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The Red Sox entered tonight averaging 5.3 runs per game this year, fourth most in the American League. The team’s average of 5.6 runs per game this month is tied for second most in the A.L. in June.

Nonetheless, it had been a fallow period for the offense in recent days. The Sox had collected just one hit on Thursday against Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins and then two on Friday against Kenshin Kawakami and the Braves. It was just the third time since 1954 that the Sox had gone back-to-back games with two or fewer hits.

Through four innings against Derek Lowe tonight, the Sox looked as if they might be at risk of such a puny offensive total for a third straight game. But with two outs in the fifth, Jason Varitek got his first hit in nine at-bats this homestand, driving a 91 mph fastball near the Wall in left-center field. Braves center fielder Nate McClouth appeared to have a play on the ball, but could not bring it in while he jumped, and so Varitek pulled into second with a double.Nick Green then followed with a run-scoring double to left-center to put the Sox up, 1-0, after five innings.

The Sox now have three hits. The last time that the team went three straight games with three or fewer hits was in 1974.

Lowe airs it out

06.20.09 at 7:50 pm ET
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This from Gary From Chapel Hill:

In the bottom of the second inning, Braves starter Derek Lowe allowed three fly balls, the sixth time this season that he’s allowed 3+ fly balls in one inning.  He only did that 9 times total in the four seasons from ’05 through ’08.

Even so, despite the three fly balls (which included David Ortiz‘ double off the top of the wall in center on a low slider that the Sox D.H. nearly muscled for a homer), Lowe remains unscored upon through three innings. He has recorded seven groundball outs along with the two flyball outs.

Josh Beckett has been just as good, allowing two hits (one an infield single that glanced off the glove of first baseman Mark Kotsay).

It’s scoreless through three innings.

Read More: Derek Lowe,

A Tip of the Cap From D-Lowe

06.20.09 at 7:11 pm ET
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Braves starter Derek Lowe, on his way from the Fenway Park bullpen mound into the visitor’s dugout for the first time in his career, offered a tip of the cap when greeted by a standing ovation from the fans around the third-base dugout. It will be interesting to see how the pitcher performs in what will surely be an emotional return.

Most interesting will be the first confrontation between catcher Jason Varitek and Lowe. The careers of the two men are inextricably intertwined, of course, thanks to the trade enacted by Dan Duquette in 1997, fleecing the Mariners of both players in exchange for reliever Heathcliff Slocumb.

Varitek said before today’s game that this will be the first time that he’s ever gotten a look at Lowe while in a batter’s box. The two had a brief chance to catch up on Friday.

“We played together a good 10 years,” said Varitek, who has often recalled the lesson in the difficulty of catching that he received as a player in Double-A while trying (often unsuccessfully) to grab hold of Lowe’s “sinker thingy.”

The two were teammates in Double-A Port City, the Arizona Fall League, Triple-A Tacoma, Triple-A Pawtucket and with the Red Sox.

“There were a lot of different places in those 10 years,” said Varitek.

Read More: Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek,
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